Tomorrow’s energy answers explored at UCF competition
If the future of energy is about smart ways to make more or use less, success may emerge from fierce, high-level competition Thursday in Orlando among students at UCF and from across the country.
Entrants in the MegaWatt Ventures contest, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and held at Orlando’s power-plant campus in east Orange County, ranged from Yale’s development of electric propulsion for heavy trucks to Vanderbilt’s quest to harness nano-material for storing energy.
The University of Iowa won the contest and the $50,000 top prize, demonstrating technology for converting wood waste to organic fertilizer and pesticide. N.C. State took second place and $15,000 after showing off an “innovative hydrogen electrolysis process” for energy storage. Vanderbilt finished third and won $10,000.
The development of advanced storage of energy — perhaps a super battery — is widely seen as the gateway to the future of clean energy. In all, there were 10 competitors. Each got a 20-minute shot at dazzling a team of judges from the Orlando Utilities Commission and from solar power, utility power and venture capital.
The University of Central Florida asked OUC to hold the competition at its Curtis Stanton Energy Center, which generates power with coal, natural gas, solar energy and methane extracted from the adjoining Orange County landfill.
“We thought it would be a good setting for, ‘Here’s what the power-generation settling looks like today,’” said Wade Gillingham, an OUC vice president. “With this challenge, this contest ... we’ll see where some of the technology leads us in the future.
UCF brought two teams, with both focusing on coupling solar power and ways to store energy — including with molten salt.
The University of South Florida presented a street-light system powered by solar and wind, while a second USF team developed a process for turning the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into fuel.